The two Richland Planning Commission members who interviewed Jet Richardson for a position on the commission said they did not know that he was Councilmember Theresa Richardson’s son.
Neither Mr. Richardson, nor Mayor Michael Alvarez, who was also in the interview, mentioned the mother-son relationship during the interview.
“I strongly support transparency and following proper protocol, “ Alvarez said before the vote on the appointment at the April 19 council meeting.
The Observer emailed Alvarez and asked if he told the Planning Commission members about the Richardsons’ relationship, but he did not respond.
Chairwoman Francesca Meir told the Observer that she was unaware that Jet was Ms. Richardson’s son.
“I had no idea until you just told me,” Planning Commission Vice Chair Michael Mealer said during a telephone interview with the Observer after the council had approved the appointment.
The Observer reached out to both Richardsons for comment. Jet did not respond, but in an email, Theresa wrote, “Jet’s resume stands on its own. I appreciate that he is interested in using both his education and experience to serve in our community.”
On LinkedIn, Jet Richardson lists that he served in the Peace Corps after college. He then earned two master’s degrees from Columbia University: one in international affairs and one in urban planning. During that period, he completed several internships abroad before joining the International Crisis Group in Washington, D.C. He worked there for almost four years before taking over Habitat for Humanity Tri-County Partners in 2019.
Jet Richardson was appointed to the Richland Arts Commission before his mother was elected to city council.
In the notes from the interviews that the Observer obtained through a public record request, Jet was asked if he had any conflicts of interest. A checkmark appears by the question without an explanation.
At the council meeting, the appointments of Mr. Richardson and Heather Nicholson were considered under “Items of Business” that required a separate vote. At that time Councilmember Richardson said that she “appreciated the transparency” before she left the room for the vote.
Alvarez noted that he and the two committee members considered four good candidates, but picked Richardson and Nicholson.
“After speaking with our city attorney, there’s no conflict of interest between family members, one that serves on city council and one serving on a voluntary role on the planning commission made up of seven volunteers,” Alvarez told the city council.
The vote passed 5-0. Richardson abstained, while Councilmember Christensen was absent.
The committee appointment was not the first time Richardsons’ professional positions have intersected. Jet Richardson became director of the local Habitat for Humanity in 2019 when his mother retired from the $100k+ job after 10 years serving as CEO.
In two articles that appeared in the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business in December 2020 and August 2021 about Jet’s job at Habitat, no mention was made of his predecessor. In the December article, the reporter wrote, “He spied the Habitat job posting when he decided to return to the West Coast and focus on urban planning. He got the job.”